The Serie A title race seems like it’s going to be won by Juventus again, with the Bianconeri holding an eight-point lead at the top of the table over second-placed Roma and a ten-point lead over third-placed Napoli with nine games left to play. Massimiliano Allegri’s men have been in imperial form once again this season as they look for a historic sixth successive top division title, which would make them the club to win the league the most number of times in succession.
One race, however, which is going to go down to the wire in Italy is for the prestigious Capocannoniere – the award given to the top scorer in the division. In a country famous for its defenders, this season’s run-in has seen the best forwards torment defences and score goals at free will. The likes of Andrea Belotti, Mauro Icardi and Dries Mertens have lit the league up this season with their exceptional attacking prowess, and are a testament to the quality and entertainment of the league. And as the race goes on, here are the five favourites to go on and claim the respected honour.
The current front-runner to win the award, Belotti has had a fantastic season leading the Torino attacking line, scoring 22 goals in 26 appearances. He began the season in brilliant form, scoring the first hat-trick of his career in the second week against Bologna. He has carried his form since, bagging goals against the likes of Roma, Juventus and Napoli and even earning his first senior international call-up
Belotti was tied down to a new Torino deal in December 2016 with a release clause set at €100 million – a staggering figure that proves his worth to the club and shows how much potential they believe he has. He cemented his legacy in Serie A folklore earlier in March with a hat-trick against Palermo, which, at seven minutes and 15 seconds, was the fastest treble in Serie A since AC Milan legend Andriy Shevchenko in 2000.
Andrea Belotti is the only player who plays for a club outside the top five; Torino’s inconsistent season places them at 10th. His run-in towards the Capocannoniere includes difficult away ties to Juventus and Genoa as well as home games against Napoli and Sampdoria.
Upcoming fixtures: Udinese (H), Cagliari (A), Crotone (H), Cheivo (A), Sampdoria (H), Juventus (A), Napoli (H), Genoa (A), Sassuolo (H)
Edin Džeko—AS Roma
Roma’s Bosnian striker has taken a key role of responsibility under manager Luciano Spalletti this season and is the focal point of the side’s attack. After a disappointing first season in the Italian capital where he scored just 10 goals in 39 games across all competitions, he’s revived his career at the club, and has scored 31 goals in 40 appearances – including 21 in the league.
He showed his calibre in the early months of the season when he came on as a substitute against Sampdoria and turned the game around from a losing position before going on and adding to his tally with goals against Inter Milan, Napoli and Sassuolo in the coming games. Despite having a relatively poor conversion rate, Džeko has proven his worth and at 31 years old is a crucial figure to the club.
Roma have a tough phase coming towards the end of April and the start of May, with an away trip to the San Siro to face Milan sandwiched between home ties to local rivals Lazio and league leaders Juventus. And with the chances falling in Džeko’s favour, it would hardly be a surprise to see him add to his tally and overtake Belotti to become the first Eastern European to win the famous honour since Andriy Shevchenko in 2004 as well as the first Bosnian overall.
Upcoming Fixtures: Empoli (H), Bologna (A), Atalanta (H), Pescara (A), Lazio (H), AC Milan (A), Juventus (H), Cheivo (A), Genoa (H)
Mauro Icardi is never far away from the headlines and he’s kept that cliché up this season as well, albeit in a more positive manner, perhaps. He’s been the man behind Inter’s resurgence this season under Stefano Pioli after a slow start under former boss Frank de Boer, and is leading the Nerazzuri’s charge for one of the three Champions League places available.
The Argentine was tied up in controversy earlier this season with the Inter fans, but has not let that get to his head and continues to rack up the goals. His 20 this season is the joint-third most and in addition to that, he has brought more to his game than just goals; his eight assists put him second on the charts behind Napoli’s José Callejón. He has already won the Capocannoniere: in 2014-15, which he shared with Luca Toni.
His best performances this season came against the likes of Torino, Crotone, Fiorentina and Lazio – all of whom he scored braces against and earlier in March, he scored a 9-minute hat-trick against high-flying Atalanta in a thumping 7-1 home win. The Milan side face games against Fiorentina, Lazio, Napoli and local rivals Milan as Icardi hopes to add more goals to his tally and help Inter reach the Champions League.
Upcoming Fixtures: Sampdoria (H), Crotone (A), AC Milan (H), Fiorentina (A), Napoli (H), Genoa (A), Sassuolo (H), Lazio (A), Udinese (H)
Napoli signed Polish forward Arkadiusz Milik from Ajax to replace the departed Gonzalo Higuaín and after a quick start to the season, he suffered a long-term injury while on international duty, leaving a void in attack. Since then, Belgian forward Dries Mertens, who usually operates out on the wings, has taken responsibility in attack and it has worked wonders for him and Maurizio Sarri’s side.
Mertens’ 20 goals makes him joint-third on the top scorers list alongside Mauro Icardi and he has become one of the world’s most sought-after footballers lately. Not many expected this at the start of the season, but at 30 he has reinvented his style brilliantly and overcame competition from Manolo Gabbiadini earlier in the campaign, eventually forcing him to leave for Southampton.
The Belgian was often used as an impact player off the bench in Sarri’s tenure, but is now the first name on the team sheet. In December, Mertens scored a hat-trick against Cagliari in a 5-0 win, and took it to the next level in the following game, scoring four against Torino; the first player to score successive trebles since 1974.
Upcoming fixtures: Juventus (H), Lazio (A), Udinese (H), Sassuolo (A), Inter Milan (A), Cagliari (H), Torino (A), Fiorentina (H), Sampdoria (A)
The current holder of the Capocannoniere, Higuaín has managed to keep his shooting boots on after a record-breaking move from Napoli to Turin with Juventus. His 19 goals so far have propelled Juventus’ title charge as they look for a sixth-successive league title and he’s formed a formidable partnership in attack with fellow Argentine, Paulo Dybala.
Always a clinical finisher, Higuaín scored his first goal of the season in his league debut for his new club against Fiorentina. Later on in the season, he scored another winner, this time against his former side Napoli and respectfully, refused to celebrate. Further fine showings came against competitive sides like Atalanta, Fiorentina and Lazio and have cemented his legacy as one of the most feared forwards in the world.
His chances of retaining the Capocannoniere look bleak with the other forwards having more goals and he’s going through a slight dip in form, having not found the net in the league since the middle of the February. However, with the title all but sealed, perhaps his team can focus on helping one of their team-mates bag a personal honour.
Upcoming fixtures: Napoli (A), Cheivo (H), Pescara (A), Genoa (H), Atalanta (A), Torino (H), Roma (A), Crotone (H), Bologna (A)